Al-Ittihad are expected to come back in for Mohamed Salah in January after putting their plans to test Liverpool‘s resolve with a £200m bid on hold.
One £150m verbal offer has already been rejected by Liverpool for the 31-year-old, with that proposal set to be ramped up to a world-record £200m figure before the close of the Saudi Pro League transfer window at 10pm on Thursday night.
But, sources have told i, the Saudi Arabians got cold feet and, for once, kept their money in their pocket, for a variety of reasons.
Liverpool have always been adamant Salah is not for sale at any price, especially this summer. The club’s stance has, thus far, not deterred Al-Ittihad who, sources said, believed all along that Salah would at least want to hear what they had to offer should Liverpool come to the negotiating table.
With Liverpool seemingly unmovable over Salah’s immediate future, a Saudi Arabia-based insider added that Al-Ittihad have softened their approach partly for fear of completely breaking any semblance of a relationship they have with the Merseysiders, for future dealings.
Whether a deal is done now, or in a year’s time, there remains complete confidence Salah, or anyone for that matter, would not be able to resist the adulation an Arab player would receive playing in the Middle East, along with the riches laid out for him.
The fact Salah’s head appears not have been turned, at this stage, is another reason for the cooling of interest. His agent Ramy Abbas insisted last month that his star client has not even entertained the idea. Liverpool have started the season well, recruited sensibly in the summer and are set to challenge Manchester City for the title again, after a disappointing campaign last season.
Any threat of a further bid has not changed Salah’s current mindset. For now, there is no reason to doubt any loyalties. That, of course, can all change very quickly.
While the general consensus is that Al-Ittihad will now return next summer with a similar offer, one source has told i it is not out of the question that discussions may recommence in January, when Liverpool would have time to replace their talisman.
Even though Liverpool possess four other multi-faceted forwards, the lack of opportunity to be able to reinvest any Salah fee back into the squad is one of the main reasons the Reds were irked by the Saudis’ decision to go all out for the Egyptian.
This whole Salah saga has all been about the timing. A PIF delegation has been in London for over a week in an attempt to bring the Liverpool forward, and potentially several other options, back to the Middle East with them.
They have been working on the deal for a “long while”, a source said, but chose to make their move on deadline day in the UK.
While getting under Jurgen Klopp’s skin was not on the agenda, forcing themselves to the forefront of the headlines, on the busiest day of transfer activity among English clubs, was.
If people weren’t aware beforehand, they are now – the Saudi Pro League are serious players in the global transfer market, and if they can at least come close to signing one of the all-time Premier League greats, while he still has a few years left at the peak of his powers, no player is off limits. The theatre and drama caused proved to be an additional bonus from the upstart league which has seen unprecedented growth.
Scrambling together one final offer, which would still likely be rejected, in the final hours of their transfer window, a source said, was therefore not necessary, not if they can come back with a more thought-out proposal in a few months’ time.
And they will come back. Armed, they feel, with money that no club, regardless of grandeur, cannot resist.